Court to Arizona Medical Extract Users: Watch Your Back!

Vape carts are taking over cannabis shelves, quickly outpacing consumer knowledge. (Leafly)
Contraband: Arizona's second-highest court has ruled that hash isn't legal under the state's medical marijuana law. (Leafly)

Arizona medical cannabis patients who use hashish, CBD oil, popular vaporizer cartridges, or any other form of cannabis extract need to watch their backs in the desert state. On Tuesday, the a state appeals court panel sided with hard-line anti-cannabis sheriffs who’ve been arresting patients for small amounts of hash and giving them more than a year in prison. Arizona’s 2010 medical marijuana law does not include extracts of marijuana — dubbed “hashish,” the appellate court ruled. “The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act in no way immunizes the possession or use of hashish,” Judge Jon W. Thompson wrote for the majority, in a 2-1 decision.

Arizona v. Jones — Arizona Court of Appeals by Ben Adlin on Scribd

The case will likely be appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, and extracts will likely stay on shelves throughout the state, pending the appeal, reports indicate. But the lack of clarity will also likely fuel more arrests for hash in Arizona, where so-called “vape carts” and other extracts are a surging product class, comprising a reported 40% of store shelves.

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Arizona has 170,000 qualified medical cannabis patients. An opioid drug maker, Insys, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat full cannabis legalization in Arizona in 2016. The defendant in the case, Rodney Jones, spent a year in prison for a few grams of hash police found on him in 2013. He was a qualifying patient and claimed a medical defense. His trial court denied his motion to dismiss and so he appealed. Jones’ case is one of many conflicting lower court rulings on whether state medical marijuana law included hash.

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Other patients have also done more than a year’s prison for hash, especially in Maricopa and Yavapai County. The legal fight all boils down to the definition of “marijuana” in the voter-approved law. “If the drafters wanted to immunize the possession of hashish they should have said so”, one lower court panel ruled. Judges have said hash gets different treatment than raw flowers, because it’s more potent, “rendering it ‘susceptible to serious and extensive abuse.’”

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Patients say extracts provide more precisely dosed medical relief with less carcinogens or hassle than crude, dried flower buds. The dissenting judge in the Appellate ruling said the AMMA does cover hash. “The Act defines ‘marijuana’ broadly to include ‘all parts of any plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, and the seeds of such plant.’ A.R.S. § 36-2801(8). The resin extracted from the marijuana plant — cannabis — is a part of a plant of the genus cannabis, just as sap is a part of a tree. Cannabis is therefore ‘marijuana,’ as defined within the AMMA, and subject to its protections.” The head of Arizona NORML said the issue is not settled, telling local reporters there “I expect an uproar.”